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A Young Kurd Deals with Peer Pressure - 2002-04-18

English Feature #7-34102 Broadcast September 18, 2000

Immigrants of different generations adjust to life in the United States in somewhat different ways. Last week on New American Voices, Kurdish immigrant Shayan Pasha talked about her concerns for her children growing up in what she sees as permissive American culture. Today Mrs. Pasha's older son, seventeen-year-old Rebeen Pasha, gives his perspective on life in America.

Rebeen Pasha was thirteen years old when he came to the United States from northern Iraq with his widowed mother and nine-year-old brother. Now, four years later, he has graduated from high school, and has just begun his freshman year at the University of Virginia. There are many things that Rebeen appreciates about America.

"The freedom of choices, the possibilities which a person could have pursuing an education and going on to, you know, choosing careers and success. And also the whole technology, and the health awareness is really, really great. The multiculturalism has been really, really great, I think."

Annandale High School in Northern Virginia, which Rebeen Pasha attended, is one of the most ethnically diverse schools in the Washington area. Last year its student body represented eighty-two countries, and spoke 42 different languages. Although there are other Kurds at Annandale High, Rabin did not choose his friends from among students of his own ethnic background.

"Not at all. I never really looked at culture as a choice factor of friendship. They're anywhere from Americans to Middle Easterners to, you know, anything."

But Rebeen Pasha says he also faces challenges because of the differences between the Kurdish and American cultures.

"There's a lot of pressure on the teenage sector of the population, I think, and I've undergone a lot of it. You know, just things - let's just say drinking pressure, for an example. Like it doesn't go with my culture and I've, you know, stood up against it, but there's a lot of peer pressure going on."

Rebeen also found a cultural challenge in the American dating scene - high school aged boys and girls going out on dates. He admits his Kurdish upbringing has been a big factor.

"Especially as far as family would go. That would be the parent's or family's approach to dating and how far it would go. I've had an on and off kind of thing, but, you know, my mother had known about it, pretty much, and also it has been let's say with her agreement, and nothing major, or nothing that I've hidden away from her. But you know, there are pressures, also, because part of my culture or my religion does not totally agree with dating in teenage years, or other stuff."

But Rebeen Pasha says he has been able to balance the conflict between his culture and American dating practices.

"I balance them out pretty much with dating as a friendship, and dating on a nice level. And since I've come from a culture where dating is not something you necessarily see all the time, I guess I could say I've been able to live without dating, it hasn't been like a necessity, like Oh, my God, I've gotta go out and get a girlfriend."

Rebeen Pasha feels that his mother, as a single parent from the Middle East, has different expectations as to her sons' behavior than his friends' parents.

"As far as being more restrictive than other American parents, yes, I can say that, but I understand where she's coming from, and I understand where I'm coming from, and I also understand that I have to put a balance between the two cultures."

Next week on New American Voices another young immigrant, a Russian who was born in Tadjikistan, shares his experiences of adjusting to life in America.